Aside from about 12 hours between Saturday and Sunday, our internet was down for a solid week thanks to the power outage frying our modem. With no Netflix in the evenings, I read. A lot.
The Enchanted: A Novel
This book. I don't even know how to accurately describe this book, but I will try my best. Often times when I request books, I forget by the time they come in and don't even know what they're about. This was one of them and the title and cover with golden horses didn't give it away, so when I settled in to read it I didn't know what to expect. I didn't expect a lyrically beautiful and powerful book about death row, and I didn't expect to be so enraptured that I would read the book all in one sitting. This book grabbed me from page one, with these words: "The most wonderful enchanted things happen here--the most enchanted things you can imagine. I want to tell you while I still have time, before they close the black curtain and I take my final bow." And then on page two, "The lady hasn't lost it yet--the sound of freedom. When she laughs, you can hear the wind in the trees and the splash of water hitting pavement. You can sense the gentle caress of rain on your face and how laughter sounds in the open air, all those things those of us in the dungeon can never feel. The fallen priest can hear those things in her voice, too. That's what makes him afraid of her. Where can that freedom lead? Nowhere good, his pounding heart says."
Narrated by the nameless death row inmate waiting to take his final bow, most characters in this novel have only titles, not names. The lady is a death row investigator (like the actual author of this book) hired to give inmates a final chance to get off the row. The fallen priest is there to offer comfort in final days, though he can't technically perform official last rites. The warden is caught between his life at the prison and his life watching his wife slip away to cancer. The death row inmates, the murderers, the monsters, have names. The corrupt prison guard, the lifers who work with him, have names. What is the line that divides them all? The lady, currently trying to save York--the rapist, the woman killer--finds that the line isn't as wide as one might think as she delves into his past.
I was hooked from line one to the very end. I finished this book and flipped back to the beginning to start again and probably would've read it back through, except that it was 11PM and I was tired. I don't know if this book is for everyone, but I believe that it's one of the most beautiful, powerful books I've read in a long time.
The Darkest Path
In a dystopian world, a civil war rages between the US government and the order of the Glorious Path. Cal and his brother James were captured by the Path years earlier and forced to make the Choice given by the Path (hint: if you don't choose their side, it's not a good outcome). Cal reaches his breaking point when a commander wants to train a stray dog he's rescued to be a vicious attack dog and this fuels his escape from the Path and search for his parents, which is nowhere near as easy as one might think. Along the way, Cal finds out that enemies are sometimes hidden and that peace is hard to find.
In the article that I read listing off young adult books and their adult contemporaries, it said that if you loved Goosebumps, you would love this book. And who didn't love the Goosebumps series? I had some trouble getting into this book at first, but then it finally hooked and I was drawn into the mystery. Anders and Cecilia live on a remote archipelago set off by a lighthouse. One winter day, they walk to the frozen channel with their six year old. She vanishes, seemingly into thin air. Two years later, Anders returns to try and discover what happened to his daughter. As he spends more time, he realizes that her disappearance is much deeper than it seems and carries with a secret held by the entire island, of the evil that is contained within the sea. I don't know that this book was scary, but it definitely made me anxious, coupled with Anders being somewhat of an unreliable narrator. This is the kind of scary story that is told around campfires or on sleepovers. It's not gory, but it's haunting and bizarre.
The Impossible Knife of Memory
I have a lot of students this year with a lot of things going on, so this book was especially hard to read. Hayley's father Andy is an Iraq war vet with PTSD. For years, they've been on the road, going from place to place when things get hard for Andy. Finally, he's driven back to his childhood home and Hayley has a shot at a normal life, but with her father, it's anything but normal. This book explores not only the all too real issue of PTSD but also, the complexity of memory--can we really trust our memory? Or do we create what seems right to us? Hayley's situation was heartbreaking. She spent so much of her life covering for her dad that a normal childhood is beyond her grasp, even when she tries. Despite how sad this book made me in parts, I loved it. I was drawn in to Hayley's story.
Never Let Me Go
According to the same article that I keep referencing about YA vs. adult books, this is the adult version of The Giver. Or the adult book to read if you loved The Giver. In a lot of ways, this book was more disturbing than The Giver. Jonah's world was pretty straight forwardly disturbing when I first read The Giver because I immediately sensed what was wrong. In this book, the main character, Kathy, doesn't give you many details of her world. She tells you that she's a carer for donors. That she went to an exclusive boarding school called Hailsham. But what is a carer? And what are donors? This is revealed slowly throughout the novel, though you can easily look at the words and piece it together yourself. Unlike typical dystopia, there is no moment where the protagonist realizes how wrong the world is and overthrows the flawed government. Instead, there's a lot of reading between the lines and antagonizing over what, exactly, goes on in Kathy's world. This is one that I would say should be read in conjunction with 1984 or other eerie looks into the future. It's good.
Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone))
This book reminded me of The Neverending Story and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The world of Ravka has been separated by the Fold, a land of darkness haunted by winged creatures. When Alina's regiment is attacked in the Fold, she discovers she has a power that is much valued: the ability to summon the sun. This makes her Grisha, something of a sorcerer. Doubtful at first because Grisha are usually so beautiful, Alina finally accepts that she has power but also learns how corrupt the magical world is.
I enjoyed this book. It was a quick, easy read. Not the best written fantasy novel out there, but it was enjoyable, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.